"We know that we have passed out of death into life, because we love the brothers. Whoever does not love abides in death. Everyone who hates his brother is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life abiding in him." 1 John 3:14 ESV
What are some reasons that Christians do not manifest love for one another? I thought about this today, and came up with two reasons. One is simply that some professing Christians are not true believers. They are false converts. Of course, it is hard to look at a person that lacks love and say that they aren't true believers without having more info. But it is possible reason.
The other reason is due to the fact that we all have indwelling sin, even after coming to Christ. When a person truly repents and trusts in Jesus' blood to cleanse from sin, that person is born again by God and becomes a new creature in Christ. Not only is that person's sin completely forgiven, but the person is now beginning to live a new life in a new way, with a new Power to enable him or her to overcome sin. This process is called 'sanctification'. True converts will go through this process the rest of their earthly lives.
The difficulty with our understanding of this, is that sometimes people assume that when a person comes to Christ, and receives forgiveness of sins, that the person will never sin again. But the new convert now has two natures that are opposed to each other. One natures loves sin and the new nature cannot sin. Can you see why there is a struggle?
As we grow in our sanctification, we are able to let go of sin's hold on us. Little by little we experience more and more freedom from the snares of sin. We experience more of the freedom of Christ. Sometimes, we have spiritual growth spurts in which we grow tremendously during certain periods and we do well, our faith grows, and we grow closer to God. But, other times, we grow more slowly. Sometimes, seem to go through periods in which we seem stagnant. But be assured, even though we don't see anything happening, God is still at work. God promises to complete the good work that He begins in us.
It is during this process of sanctification that we develop good qualities and spiritual growth, and at the same time, we see sin more and more and can leave it go, but this takes time. We have indwelling sin which we will never see until we grow. I think of when I came to Christ, and truly repented of my sins, yet, I can see things I did, believed, and practiced that would horrify me today. I didn't see all my sins the moment I was born again. Over time, we become more and more like Christ, and less and less like the world.
As far as the love of God being manifest in our lives, this could take time. On the one hand, we have experienced God's love when we came to Christ and when we came to know Him personally. The seed of love is already there. But as we look at the church today, we don't see much of the love of God. We don't necessarily see Christians 'loving one another'. One reason already covered is because not everyone who claims to be a Christian is truly a believer. He or she probably doesn't understand the Gospel in its entirety, or has chosen to believe in another Gospel. This person has not seen God yet. But if he or she really does know God, that person has not seen the dimension of God's love at this point in his or her live yet. It is part of his or her immaturity in the Christian life (not immaturity like being a jerk! Just like a baby doesn't know what adults know, he or she will learn over time).
Jesus commands us to love one another. He also commands us to love our enemies. The great commandment, the Royal Law, is to 'love God with all our hearts, souls, minds, and strength, and to love our neighbor as we love ourselves.' God gives us the ability to know Him and to love Him by the power of the Holy Spirit indwelling in us. This is what the world will see that will help them to know that we are true believers in Jesus Christ. This is the mark of Christianity.
I am not going to go into an indepth definition of what love is, but, I will say that the term 'love' has a different connotation in America today, than it does in the Bible. We understand love as a serve-serving mechanism that makes us happy. When we love, we are the recipients of what that love produces. It's what makes us happy. For example, we love ice-cream. We love Chinese food. These are things we enjoy, but really, we don't actually love them. We take this definition of love into our understanding of God. We think we love God and God loves us, so that means that God ultimately makes us happy. But that is not what love actually is. We may or may not enjoy the objects of our love, but that is not the reason we love those things. Love involves sacrifice. It looks out for what is best for the object of our love even at our own expense. It's goal is not to benefit the giver of love, but the recipient of that love. It is God's nature, for the Bible tells us 'God is love'. Anyone who has been born again has experienced and received God's love, and now, because of the new heart, the born again person will be giving this love to others. Remember, only the person who has a new heart can have this kind of love. Our old hearts can never receive this love, let alone share it with others.
If we want the world to see God in us, the world will only see Him if we love one another. That's why the Bible talks a lot about love. If we love one another, and others around us, we can communicate God to other people. It will open up the door to speak the words of life to others. It will help them to see what God is really like, at least in this one important aspect. This is something for us to aspire to.